Pet Microchipping FAQs

Microchips are often a confusing topic for pet owners, as many misconceptions about these devices can lead people astray as they consider a microchip for their pet. Whether you’re wondering how a microchip can help reunite you with your missing pet, or if your private information is truly safe, we’ve got the answers to all your questions about microchips in pets.

Question: What is a microchip?

Answer: A microchip is a tiny electronic chip encased in a glass cylinder that is about the size of a rice grain. In pets, microchips are typically implanted under the skin between the shoulder blades. When scanned, the microchip emits a radio wave that is linked to a unique identification (ID) number. This ID number is registered in a database with your contact information, making a happy reunion more likely if your pet gets lost.

Q: Do microchips replace collar identification tags?

A: Microchips should not replace ID tags but rather complement them. An ID tag on your pet’s collar provides immediate contact information, allowing anyone who finds them to reach you quickly. A microchip is a permanent ID form that can’t be lost or removed, ensuring your pet can always be identified, even if their collar is missing.

Q: How is a microchip implanted in pets?

A: Microchips come loaded in a syringe, and are injected under your pet’s skin. Although the needle used to insert a microchip is slightly larger than a standard injection needle, the implantation process is quick and relatively painless, similar to a routine vaccination. The procedure takes only a few seconds and doesn’t require sedation or anesthesia. However, microchips are often inserted while a pet is already under anesthesia, such as for a spay or neuter procedure. Most pets experience minimal discomfort and can resume normal activities immediately.

Q: Are microchips safe for pets?

A: Yes, microchips are safe. They are made from biocompatible materials that don’t cause allergic reactions or interfere with your pet’s health. Complications are rare. However, these risks far outweighed the benefits of having a microchip. As with any medical procedure, infection can occur, but the risk is minimal. In addition, microchips rarely migrate from their original location.

Q: Can a microchip track my pet’s location?

A: No, microchips do not have GPS tracking capabilities. They are simply ID devices. When a lost pet is found, a veterinary hospital or animal shelter can scan the chip to retrieve the unique ID number associated with the owner’s contact information. If you want to track your pet’s location, you would need to outfit them with a GPS collar or similar device.

Q: What information is stored on a microchip?

A: The only information stored on a microchip is a 9-, 10- or 15-digit ID number, which is registered with a microchip registry service, where pet owner contact information is stored and maintained. Pet owners determine what, if any, contact information to provide to the registry. No medical or private information is saved on a microchip. ​

Q: How do I update my contact information?

A: You must keep your contact information up to date in the microchip registry. Most microchip companies offer online services where you can update your information at any time. Some may charge a small fee for this service, while others offer it for free. Regularly updating your contact information ensures you can be reached if your pet is found.

Q: What should I do if I adopt a pet with a microchip?

A: If you adopt a pet who already has a microchip, update the contact information in the registry. The adoption agency or previous owner should provide you with the microchip number and details on how to update the registry. Ensuring the microchip information is current will help protect your new pet.

Q: How much does microchipping cost?

A: Microchipping costs vary but typically range between $25 and $50. This fee often includes the initial implantation and registration in a pet recovery database. Some animal shelters and veterinary hospitals may offer microchipping services at discounted rates during special events.

Q: What happens if my pet is lost?

A: If your pet is lost, immediately notify your microchip registration company, which can assist in alerting local shelters and veterinary hospitals. When your lost pet is found and scanned for a microchip, the microchip company will contact you using the information in their database. Ensuring your contact information is current increases the chances of a swift reunion with your pet.

Microchipping is one of the best ways to ensure a prompt, joyful reunion with your missing furry friend. Learn more about microchipping your pet by scheduling an appointment with your AAHA-accredited veterinarian.

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